February 2 is a North American holiday—actually not so much a holiday as a tradition—called Groundhog Day. A large rodent either sees its shadow or doesn’t, and whichever one happens ends up having zero relationship to the next few weeks’ weather.
But worldwide, Groundhog Day is probably more well-known as one of Bill Murray’s finest movies. In case you haven’t seen it (might I suggest Netflix?), the plot is that Murray’s character is doomed to repeat the same day over and over, until he does something differently…but what?
Your Own Personal Groundhog Day
The movie is a parable: we get trapped in a dull but comfortable cycle: get up, go to work, talk to the same people in the same way, eat the same food, watch or read the same things, go to bed. At the end of the day, we haven’t grown, we haven’t broken new ground, we haven’t really gone anywhere.
Are you living in your own personal Groundhog Day?
Warning signs that you’re trapped in the same day, replayed over and over again, include:
- No forward progress in relationships (or no relationships to begin with)
- Dissatisfaction with job but no action to change it
- Purchase of “family” sizes of food even though you’re single
- Friends mouthing the words to your jokes as you make them
- Daily thoughts of doing something different, followed either by weak excuse not to or solemn vow to do it later
Snap Out of It, Man!
What it takes to break the Groundhog Day cycle is the willingness to make a change. And a rut isn’t as comfortable as we like to think it is—we all have something we dream of, somewhere we want to go in our lives. It’s a matter of committing to get outside your comfort zone.
- Start small if you need to. When I researched this article, the vast majority of snap-out-of-your-rut tips were slight changes to just make you think a bit differently: sleep on the other side of the bed, put on your shoes while standing up, read a new book…you get the picture. If you’re having a hard time with a more noticeable change, starting out by brushing your teeth left-handed is better than nothing.
- Work differently. If you like your career but aren’t happy in your job, start making the changes you need to move forward. Go to lunch with a co-worker you haven’t hung with before. Take on an extra task you wouldn’t normally do. Get some more education. Send out resumes.
- Learn a new skill. Pick up a skill that can help you with your life. Learning to cook is a gateway to eating more healthy and being appreciated more by friends and dates. If you’ve never learned to swim, do that. If you’re uncomfortable at parties or business networking events, learn how to work a room. Make it something you can use.
- Exercise. The time you spend working out or running or playing a sport not only makes your body healthier, it helps clear your mind for a while. I find it’s almost like meditation—concentrating on your form gives your mind a focus. If you have a regular workout you’ve been doing for a while, try a new one. If you don’t have a workout, might I suggest one?
- Talk to strangers. Social skills are like muscles: they need exercise. Go to a restaurant with a counter and strike up conversations. Make a day of going into stores and, when a clerk asks if there’s anything they can help you with, say “yes.” Tell a woman she’s pretty—and then go about your business. Ask your server how their day is—and care. Get into real conversations.
- Pay attention. Life becomes a lot richer when you see its texture. Don’t let it just whoosh by you. Notice details. Study your surroundings. Really hear what people are saying to you. Watch the sunset (or sunrise). When you read the news or hear some gossip, use critical thinking to understand all sides of the story.
- Create. Art helps you to see the world differently. Whether it’s drawing, sculpture, writing or music, do something that takes you out of (or mocks) mundane life and lets you architect a fresh perspective. Let go of your rational thought and just let the art speak.
- Make a commitment to your dreams. This means sitting down and writing out a plan—then executing the first step. Just the first step, no more and no less. Schedule it, write it down in ink. It doesn’t matter if that plan is a business or a vacation or home improvement, just get started.
If that wasn’t enough, here are 22 more ways to jump-start your life.
Some Habits Are Worse Than Others
Some habits we have because they keep us healthy, like brushing our teeth every morning or putting on a seatbelt. Other habits we do for little other reason than they’re comfortable. Comfortable habits may be good ones, or they may actually be harmful. A guy might think he’s earned his evening of videogames and sodas—after all, he works hard every day, and the evening is “me time,” right?
Well, every evening you spend playing videogames and drinking soda is another evening you aren’t meeting women, or getting exercise, or pursuing your dreams. Yes, there should be time for pure fun, but after a while the rest of life is going to drag you down if you don’t tend to it.
Try making a new habit: spend just an hour a day tending to your life, planning positive change and moving it forward. That hour can be spent with a pen and paper, in a class, creating art, meditating…however you want to spend it. Just make sure it’s something that moves your life forward.
Change can be scary, but once you’re committed it can also be a whole lot of fun. End Groundhog Day and let yourself really live.